It might look like the ridiculous eye-diving black goo from Prometheus, but ferrofluid is very real, available on Earth, and wonderfully cool. Take our money. Just take it all.
The oily substance is a mixture of nanoscale magnetic particles – each coated with a surfactant to reduce clumping – and some solvent (usually water). Because of its unique properties, ferrofluid has inspired countless projects over the years, from shape-shifting mirrors for telescopes, to magnetic drug-targeting for cancer patients. But now, industrial designer Zelf Koelman has dreamt up another use for the wonder-goo: addictive desk toys like the Ferrolic “living clock.”
“A few years ago I fell in love with the magical characteristics of a little black ‘blob’ in a bottle,” he says. “One could manipulate the position and shape of a floating drop of ferrofluid with a magnet. The dynamics and shape of this liquid body was much like a living entity. I decided to allow this entity to live its own life and have a function. A year of research and engineering eventually resulted in Ferrolic.”
Behind the front glass panel is a thin basin, which Koelman compares to an aquarium in which ferrofluid can swim freely. Behind the basin, powerful electromagnets move through various programs, picking up the material, and moving it around for your viewing pleasure.
“The software behind these electromagnets, and thus the shapes and information displayed, can be edited,” explains Koelman. “Ferrolic is controlled by an intelligent internal system that is accessible trough a web-browser. In this way users can assign ‘the creatures’ to display time, text, shapes and transitions.” Experienced techies can even create animations from their own custom shapes.
So, what does it cost? The display itself will run you a measly $8,352.30 (7,500 euros), give or take a few hundred depending on your choice of frame. But hey, the video is free to watch. Alternatively, for just $30 you can have a drop of ferrofluid – complete with nifty flask and magnet – for endless hours of science-filled time wasting (which, we might add, is the best kind of time wasting).
IMAGES: Koelman/Ferrolic, CrazyRussianHacker